In early September, the National Audubon Society released a first-ever report examining the intertwined future of climate change and birds. Based on Audubon Christmas Bird Counts, the U.S. Geological Survey’s North American Breeding Bird Surveys and widely accepted climate change scenarios, Audubon researchers predicted changes in the “climatic suitability” of extant habitats for 588 species of North American birds. The upshot? America’s birds face a dramatically changing landscape, with the current range of many species either expanding, contracting or relocating entirely. Of the 588 North American species considered, Audubon defined 314 as “at risk” from global warming if trends proceed at their current pace. Some Texas birds, like the endangered black-capped vireo, will see their climatic range disappear in Texas and reappear in coastal California, with uncertain impact on the species’ survival. Others, like the endangered golden-cheeked warbler endemic to Central Texas’ Edwards Plateau, face almost certain extinction by the end of the century as their climatic sweet spot in Texas all but disappears. Grackles, on the other hand, appear to be doing just fine.
Houston native Brad Tyer has contributed to the Observer since the mid-1990s as a critic, reporter, copy editor and managing editor. His first book, Opportunity, Montana: Big Copper, Bad Water, and the Burial of an American Landscape, was published by Beacon Press in 2013. Brad is currently enjoying a periodic out-of-state sojourn and working as an independent writer and editor.